Marathon to Dry Tortugas

Valt & Sandy
Mon 20 May 2013 23:32

May 17, 2013
Florida sometimes seems very boater- unfriendly. They disapprove anchoring, and even were in a lawsuit to prevent it. Also disapproved is tying to a private dock and sleeping aboard even for a night. Dock owners cannot even permit a houseguest overnight. They want all boats tied to docks in marinas. And marinas in South Florida are very expensive, $2.50-5.00 per night.
But in their defense, Florida waterways have been abused by some boaters, spoiling the water, and even creating navigational hazards. Our first trip to Florida aboard Amber Isle, we were shocked at the half-sunken boats everywhere. Boot Key Harbor at Marathon was a good example. In 2000 we pulled into the crowded harbor to watch a lighted boat parade. Many old, ragged boats were there, dumping their holding tanks and garbage. The water was foul, even smelly. When we found an empty spot to drop anchor, a nearby boater warned us off. We were over a sunken boat. By 2005 they had mooring balls. If someone abandoned a derelict boat, they could remove it from the harbor. The water was much cleaner now that a mooring ball came with a weekly pump out. In 2013, the bay is almost entirely mooring balls. At $22 a night, $100 a week, and $300 a month, it is a bargain.
Although we stayed outside the harbor on the lee side of the island, we did go ashore to see the sights. Lunch was a special treat at Lazy Days Grill. A dolphin pod treated us to a show while we dined. Meat was on the menu, we'd had lots of fish this trip. Several boats we met in Exuma were here, awaiting crossing dates.
At daybreak we weighed anchor and moved into the Hawks Channel towards Key West. Hawks Channel is protected by a big reef that separates it from the ocean. After only 20 miles we turned into the harbor between Ramrod and Summerland Key. Friends were there and we met them before continuing west. Dolphins escorted out of the harbor next morning, slashing and blowing happily. The wind and waves were very calm, so as we neared the entrance to Key West, we decided instead to keep going to the Dry Tortugas, some 70 miles west. The Marquesas, 20 miles east, would be our overnight stop to divide the trip up. This was our first visit there.